Wednesday, April 30, 2014

As fire season approaches, let’s create ‘charter forests’

With the number and severity of wildfires increasing dramatically, it’s time to rethink management policies for our national forest system.

A new study by the American Geophysical Union, for instance, found that serious wildfires in the American West have been increasing significantly over the last 30 years, with the total number of acres destroyed increasing an average of 90,000 per year from 1984 to 2011.

In 2013 alone, according to government estimates, 4.2 million acres of U.S. forest lands were destroyed by wildfires, an area seven times larger than New York City and Los Angeles combined. The fires claimed lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service in 37 states.

The American Geophysical Union attributes the dramatic increase in wildfires to several possible factors, including climate change, an increase in invasive species, and what one member describes as “past fire management practices.”

The greatest blame for faulty fire management practices lies squarely with the U.S. Forest Service, which has helped turn many national forests into literal tinderboxes.

The agency understands it has problems. In a 2002 report, the Forest Service lamented that it was operating “within a statutory, regulatory and administrative framework that has kept the agency from effectively addressing rapid declines in forest health.”

Desperate for improvement, Congress in 2009 enacted the ironically named Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act, or FLAME, requiring the secretaries of Agriculture and Interior to develop a “National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy.” The report was finalized April 9, 2014, nearly four years after its statutory deadline.

Like other past reform efforts, the new fire management strategy fails to come to terms with the statutory, regulatory and procedural quagmire that now exists.

Rather than trying to comprehensively fix all of the problems plaguing the Forest Service, whose 35,000 employees manage approximately 10 percent of all land in the United States, what’s needed is a new management model — the type public education reformers have been experimenting with. Like charter schools, we need “charter forests.”

The secret is local management autonomy: We need to apply that management model to the U.S. Forest Service.

A decentralized charter forest would operate under the control of a local board of directors, which might include local government officials, economists, environmentalists, and recreational and commercial users of forest resources. They would have wide freedom to hire and fire employees, bypassing usual civil service procedures.

Like charter schools, which receive public support based on the number of students enrolled, charter forests would receive federal funds to support their operations based on a forest’s size, ways in which it is used, past federal spending for the forest, and other appropriate criteria.

Charter forests would be exempt from current requirements for public land use planning and the writing of environmental impact statements. These requirements long ago ceased to perform their ostensible function of improving public land decision making and instead have become open invitations to litigation — effectively transferring much of the management control over our national forests to litigants and federal judges.

Charter forests would operate under federal oversight, including broad land use goals and performance standards relating to environmental quality. But they would have the flexibility to develop and implement innovative solutions to the growing health problems that threaten many national forests.

It’s time to give a new management model a try. If not, we may find the destructive pattern of the past 30 years continue for another 30.

Robert Nelson, a senior fellow with The Independent Institute, Oakland, Calif., is professor of environmental policy at the School of Public Policy of the University of Maryland and author, most recently, of The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion versus Environmental Religion in Contemporary America.”

Today’s “Sagebrush Rebels” Seek Better Land Management At State Level

By Terry L. Anderson
...Lawmakers from eight western states joined forces on April 18 in Salt Lake at a summit to declare “enough is enough” when it comes to the mismanagement of federal lands in their states. One of the summit organizers, Montana Sen. Jennifer Fielder, said, “There is a distinct difference in the way federal agencies are managing the federal lands today. They used to do a good job, but they are hamstrung now with conflicting policies, politicized science, and an extreme financial crisis at the national level. It makes it impossible for these federal agencies to manage the lands responsibly anymore.”

Almost no one with an interest in federal land management can disagree with Fielder’s conclusion—even the land managers themselves. As Jack Ward Thomas, former chief of the Forest Service, put it, federal land management is tied in a “Gordian knot” of laws and litigation.

When the first Sagebrush Rebels made the same point, most thought the movement was about privatizing the federal estate. But neither ranchers nor environmentalists want the government out of land management. They just want the locus of management to be where they think they can more easily get what they want. Both sides should be careful what they ask for.

Today’s Sagebrush Rebels want federal lands transferred to the states. But if they succeed, grazing fees would likely increase. In Montana, BLM grazing fees are $1.35 per AUM (animal unit month—the amount of land necessary to support a cow-calf pair for one month), while the state land fees are between $6.12 and $80. Moreover, if managed under state trust land requirements, the land would have to turn a profit. In fiscal year 2004, the year for which we have the best estimates, the BLM lost over $55 million dollars on its grazing programs, and the Forest Service lost another $60 million. Admittedly, this is as much due to high management costs as it is to modest revenues, so turning a profit would require adjustments on both sides of the ledger. Are ranchers ready to have less taxpayer money spent on their grazing lands and to pay more for their permits?

Environmentalists, on the other hand, want more control in Washington D.C., where urban constituencies can have a say in land management decisions. When President Clinton occupied the White House, environmentalists carried signs calling for “No Moo in ‘92” and “Cattle Free in ’93.” Their political pressure helped reduced grazing on federal lands from 8.3 million AUMs in 1991 and to 7.9 million in 2013. At the same time, however, grazing fees plummeted from about $2.00 per AUM to $1.35, the minimum that can be charged, where they remain today.

But “no moo” may mean fewer tweets, clucks, and bugles from wildlife. As private ranchers demonstrate, good land management can control noxious weeds, improve water quality, sequester more carbon, and generate more wildlife habitat. Ecologist and rangeland specialist Dan Daggett has documented hundreds of cases where cattle grazing has improved the ecosystem.

At a time when federal deficits are running at their highest levels ever and when guns are literally drawn over public land management, perhaps it is time for a real land management rebellion. It is time to consider privatization rather than more politicization of federal lands. We could start by selling off millions of acres of grazing lands. Private ranchers have proven that they are good stewards of the land they own, both in terms of livestock production and ecosystem services. If environmental groups want to have authority in land management, they should also accept responsibility by buying lands, as groups such as the Grand Canyon Trust and the American Prairie Reserve already do. Perhaps a little experimentation of this sort would provide further evidence that fiscal responsibility and environmental responsibility go hand-in-hand.

Terry L. Anderson is the president of PERC (the Property and Environment Research Center) in Bozeman, Mont., and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.


Property rights attorneys decry environmental ‘lawlessness’

Two legal experts who have made careers of defending property rights advise rural residents to keep out ahead of the federal government. The Environmental Protection Agency is the “most lawless agency in a lawless administration,” said attorney and author William Perry Pendley, president and chief operating officer for the Mountain States Legal Foundation in Lakewood, Colo. He cited efforts to drive coal plants out of business and determine 1 million acres in Wyoming, including the town of Riverton, Wyo., belongs to Native Americans. Environmentalists want to elevate the legal rights of inanimate objects, Pendley charged, allowing lawyers to represent streams or wildlife on farmers’ lands. Pendley said the National Environmental Policy Act, originally a procedural statute and not a environmental protection statute, keeps oil refineries from being built in the United States and allows timber to rot before harvest every summer. The Endangered Species Act was originally slated to protect a hundred species on federal land, with “just compensation” for any impact to private lands. “We’re now 2,000 (species) and going north,” Pendley said. “It’s on private property coast to coast, border to border. And I know of no case in which a private property owner has been paid. We’ve gone from protecting the warm and fuzzies to protecting the cold and slimies.” All 50 states have laws requiring state agencies to coordinate with local policy and local governments, including more than 15 statutes in Washington, said Fred Kelly Grant, lead attorney for the Stand and Fight Club, a project of the Center for Defense of Free Enterprise in Bellevue, Wash. “If only the local governments knew it,” he said. “If we had 5,000 local governments in this country using the coordination process, the EPA would be toothless.”...more

Utah’s Stewart: BLM doesn’t need a ‘SWAT team’

The Bureau of Land Management doesn’t need its own heavily armed police force, Rep. Chris Stewart said Tuesday, referencing the recent standoff between federal agents and a civilian militia siding with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. Stewart, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, says he’s going to try to cut funding for any "paramilitary units" and require the BLM, Internal Revenue Service and other regulatory agencies to rely on local law enforcement rather than their own armed crews. "There are lots of people who are really concerned when the BLM shows up with its own SWAT team," the Utah Republican said off the House floor Tuesday, noting that land managers aren’t the only government agents with serious firepower. "They’re regulatory agencies; they’re not paramilitary units, and I think that concerns a lot of us." Stewart, who insists he isn’t taking sides in the Bundy showdown, says he was shocked to see the government’s response and believes it led to the civilian militia that showed up to defend the rancher. But Stewart says agencies such as the BLM should defer to local police for muscle instead of bringing in their own. "They should do what anyone else would do," Stewart said. "Call the local sheriff, who has the capability to intervene in situations like that." Stewart, a freshman lawmaker seeking a second term this election year, could find powerful friends in his targeting of such special-force units in government agencies. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told WHAS radio of Louisville, that the feds shouldn’t have "48 federal agencies carrying weapons and having SWAT teams."...more

Wildfires in the Western U.S. Are on the Rise, Posing Threats to Drinking Water

When the Las Conchas Fire scorched some 151,000 acres of northern New Mexico in 2011, it wasn’t just the direct fire damage that was cause for worry. Striking as it did in the midst of a persistent drought, but just before summer “monsoon” rains, the Las Conchas – the largest blaze in New Mexico’s recorded history – set in motion the one-two-three punch of drought, fire and flood that much of the western United States has seen all-too frequently in recent years. As the intense rains pounded burned-out watersheds, peak floods poured through the Jemez Mountain canyons pushing tree trunks, boulders and tons of blackened soil down to the valleys below.   Soon after, to avoid the high costs of de-clogging equipment and treating sediment-laden river water, the Albuquerque drinking water utility cut its intake from the Rio Grande by half – and tapped more groundwater to make up the deficit. With new research showing that fires in the western United States are getting larger and more frequent, water managers need to mitigate the impacts of fire in their source watersheds, as well as prepare for the consequences. In a study published online in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, Philip E. Dennison of the University of Utah and colleagues analyzed a database of large wildfires (those greater than 1,000 acres, or 405 hectares) in the western United States over the period 1984-2011 and found a significant increase in the number of large fires and/or the area covered by such fires. For water managers, the new research is a clarion call to begin action now to safeguard water supplies originating in watersheds prone to fire. Fires are natural and beneficial to forested watersheds. But for many decades, firefighters focused on protecting people and property have squelched even small fires that would do the important work of cleansing the forest floor and thinning trees to healthy densities. As a result, many forests have accumulated an excess of “fuel,” so when a fire ignites– whether from a natural cause, such as a lightening strike or a human one, such as a campfire – the forest is primed to burn rapidly, increasing the potential for a mega-fire like Las Conchas. Drought only adds to the favorable fire conditions. Partly in response to the damage wildfires have inflicted downstream, a few pioneering water suppliers are taking a proactive approach to addressing wildfires’ costs and risks to drinking water sources...more

Idaho counties air objections to new forest plan

North Idaho’s counties want more influence over how the U.S. Forest Service manages hundreds of thousands of acres in the region. Actions such as road closures, fire management and proposed wilderness areas affect local governments, their citizens and their tax base, the county officials said. They said officials at the Idaho Panhandle National Forests didn’t listen to their concerns when the agency developed a new forest plan. “Seventy-four percent of the lands in Shoshone County are federally owned,” said Larry Yergler, a Shoshone County commissioner. With such a large land base, Forest Service actions affect everything from the number of local timber jobs to revenue for the county’s road budget, he said. Tuesday’s meeting was a chance for individuals and organizations who filed objections to the revised forest plan to air their issues before a Forest Service review officer. Associate Deputy Chief Jim Pena traveled from Washington, D.C., for the hearing. Pena listened to a variety of objections to the plan, which lays out the future management direction for the 2.5-million-acre forest. But the morning session was dominated by the Forest Service’s interaction with local governments. Representatives from all five northern counties spoke. Local officials said the Forest Service wasn’t meeting its obligation to consult with local counties on a government-to-government basis. Some wanted more meetings with agency officials, and assurance that the issues they raised were given more weight than individual public comments. Others challenged federal authority. “The concept of federal supremacy just doesn’t float well with us,” Bonner County Commissioner Mike Nielsen said. Pena said the Forest Service is required to reach out to local and state governments through meaningful dialogue during the forest planning process. But local and state government’s input is advisory only, he said...more

Bucky's Birthday Bash

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1241

Our tune today is Sweet Marie, an instrumental recorded in 1954 by Hank Snow & The Rainbow Ranch Boys.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

GOAL Advocacy Launches Radio Ad in Las Cruces

(April 28, 2014)  GOAL Advocacy recently launched a radio ad in Las Cruces aimed at bringing attention to the Organ Mountain National Monument debate.

The radio spot can be heard here.  The spot encourages residents of Dona Ana County to contact Senators Heinrich and Udall and ask them to pursue the legislative process in the effort to protect the Organ Mountains as a national monument.   The legislative process will help ensure the issues Dona Ana County residents care about most are addressed in any designation.  According to a recent survey of Dona Ana County residents by GOAL Advocacy, strong majorities were more likely to support a designation that addresses and protects grazing, border security and flood control projects.

GOAL Advocacy was created to educate and promote policies which will have a positive impact on the state and region. GOAL brings together business and community leaders from across the region to share their expertise, experiences and ideas.  Through their commitment to the state and region, the board will guide the organization to change the landscape of public policy discussion in the region and be a consistent voice on all issues relating to jobs and the economy.   To learn more visit our website at

Blurred Lines - Texas-BLM Spat Has Complicated History


Tommy Henderson’s Chevy Silverado bobbed as he drove recently over the North Texas pasture he knows so well. It was part of the ranch where his family had grown crops and grazed cattle for more than a century.

The landscape had changed over time. The cottonwood and salt cedar trees weren’t here when his forefathers arrived. “It was just tall prairie,” he said. And the Red River, which runs about a quarter-mile north, has, at times, snaked closer to this spot, its flow changing with Mother Nature’s whims.

The 60-year-old rancher knew exactly when his truck rolled past the invisible boundary that splits what’s still his land and the 140 acres the courts took away — despite the fact that Henderson paid for it.
“We’re on BLM land right now,” Henderson said.

It’s been nearly 30 years since an Oklahoma judge ruled that the land belonged to the federal government, to be overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The issue is getting attention now as the BLM decides what to do with an area along a 116-mile stretch of the Red River it says it controls. That area includes an indeterminate amount of land that North Texans have long considered theirs. Texas officials, including Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott, are speaking out about the case, with some officials talking about federal “seizure” of private property and “overreach.”

Henderson, who is no fan of the BLM, said he’s happy with the attention on the issue. And because of his role in the dispute’s legal history, he has become a point man for those looking to clear up the confusion. He wants more Texas officials to first grasp the two centuries of litigation and changing geography rooted in the dispute. He said they need to know about the Louisiana Purchase, the Adams-OnĂ­s Treaty, Buck James, the Langford family and the huge legal ramifications for the different ways a river can move. Only with that understanding can officials try to answer the landowners' new set of questions.

“I think it’s very difficult to fully understand it,” he said. “To know how we got here, we kind of got to know where we’ve been.”

The BLM, the federal government’s trustee for nearly 250 million acres of public land and 700 million acres of mineral rights, is updating its resource management plans in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas — designating how the land will be used for the next 15 to 20 years. The area includes about 90,000 acres along the Red River that the agency considers public land.

Texans, however, have long managed some of that land. They hold deeds to it and have diligently paid taxes on it. The BLM has not fully surveyed the area, so it is not clear how many acres the locals have claimed and how many sat untouched.


Can a DOE competition jump-start wind power in America's vast offshore?

Right about now, offshore wind developers across the United States have started holding their breath. Next month, the Department of Energy will announce three competition winners that could blaze a path for offshore wind's future in the United States, where, despite the best efforts of a few determined mavericks, no utility-scale offshore wind farms have yet been built. When announced in December 2012, the DOE competition involved seven offshore wind demonstration projects that were awarded an initial $4 million to get off the ground. Each has spent the past year scrambling to prove it is one of three that merit an additional $47 million to transform their ambition to "get steel into the water" into reality. The projects, with backers as diverse as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and one of the Southeast's largest energy companies, have started work on both U.S. coasts, in the Great Lakes and in the Gulf of Mexico. All aim to be the impetus that begins to spin a robust offshore wind industry in their region...more

 The answer my friend, is blowin' in the wind, along with about $169 million of your tax dollars.

Endangered Species Act protections for frogs and toad

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today that three amphibians native to the Sierra Nevada will be given protections under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog and the northern Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the mountain yellow-legged frog will be listed as endangered and the Yosemite toad as threatened under the ESA. The final rule announcing the actions is expected to publish in the Federal Register on April 29, 2014 and the final rule will become effective on June 30, 2014...more

Has the Endangered Species Act become immune to amendment?

An animal rights group has filed a lawsuit arguing that the Endangered Species Act — which is itself constitutionally suspect — limits Congress’ powers, i.e. Congress cannot legislate on endangered species issues unless that legislation would be consistent with the ESA. This absurd proposition has already been rejected by that bastion of anti-environmentalism: the Ninth Circuit, which recently characterized the protection of endangered species as the “highest priority” under federal law. The subject of the most recent controversy is a permit exemption for exotic hunting ranches, which finance populations of species that are endangered or extinct in the wild through regulated hunting. This fantastically successful model for species conservation has been consistently attacked by animal rights groups. A few years ago, 60 Minutes produced a piece on this success and interviewed those on both sides of the political and legal fight. Lest you have any doubt that the opposition isn’t about species conservation, the leader of the animal rights group is asked directly whether she would rather see these species go extinct than be saved in this way. And she said yes! The group previously sued to stop a administratively adopted permit exemption for these ranches on the grounds that it violated the ESA. The district court agreed with them, and the case is now on appeal. In the wake of this decision, Congress decided to change the law, perhaps because it didn’t think the ESA was meant to contribute to species extinction. A court interpreted the law. Congress, disagreeing with the result, changed the law. That should be the end of the story. Nope. The group argues that Congress violated the Separation of Powers. Because there is a pending lawsuit, Congress’s decision to change the law in effect directs the judiciary to decide the case in a particular way...more

The Return of the Wolf ... In Germany

Surrounded by a flock of 250-odd black-faced sheep near this northeastern town, Frank Neumann jams his green Trilby hat on his head before a gust of wind sends it flying, then chuckles as his 120-lb sheepdog leaps up to lick his face. The bearlike Pyrenean mountain dog is people-friendly, but it's no pet. Before the stocky farmer obtained six of them to protect his flock, he arrived one morning to find 27 of his cherished sheep eviscerated, their guts strewn across the pasture. It was a tough way to learn that the wolf had returned to Germany. “Officially, there weren't supposed to be any here,” Neumann says. “I was pretty angry because no one had warned us.” New sightings confirm that wolves are making a rapid comeback across Europe. But the most surprising success story — together with possible related problems — is here in Germany, which lacks the infrastructure for wildlife protection despite its strong tradition of environmentalism. “Germany as a whole is becoming affected by wolves,” says World Wildlife Fund wolf expert Janosch Arnold. “Five years from now we’ll have them in nearly every district.” Since the year 2000, when an infrared camera produced the first evidence of their return close to the Polish border, the number of wolf packs in Germany has mushroomed from two to more than 30. Their comeback was initially attributed to the emptying of rural areas in what was formerly East Germany. But with wolf packs settling amid wind-energy projects, along well-trodden nature trails and even on Berlin’s doorstep, it's now clear that the European Union's tough protection laws are responsible. In a troubling development for some farmers, wolves are proving no more prone to remaining isolated in the wilderness than America's coyotes...more

Yakamas file suit to stop Rattlesnake wildflower tours

The Yakama Nation is asking a federal judge to stop the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from conducting wildflower tours on Rattlesnake Mountain starting this weekend. Fish and Wildlife has finished a lottery to award seats on two bus tours a day today, Sunday, May 8 and May 10 to a portion of the Hanford Reach National Monument closed to the public. Fish and Wildlife had not received official notice of the lawsuit Wednesday and told the Herald that it had no plans to alter the tour schedule. No hearing is set in U.S. District Court on the injunction request. It’s the third year that Fish and Wildlife has offered the tours. This year, like last year, stops are planned on the Arid Land Ecology Reserve, as well as a possible trip up Rattlesnake Mountain on the reserve if the weather is good. The Yakama Nation told Fish and Wildlife two years ago that the cultural significance of the Rattlesnake Mountain area “is not conducive to tourism and recreation” and that tours would adversely affect it. Rattlesnake Mountain, the highest point in the Mid-Columbia, was designated at a Traditional Cultural Property by the Department of Energy in 2007, recognizing its religious and cultural importance to the Yakama Nation...more

Chaffetz voices support for public lands initiative

If Rep. Jason Chaffetz could wave a magic wand, he says he would give local governments more power to manage Utah’s public lands. But the third-term Utah Republican congressman told local voters that he won’t use any powers – supernatural or otherwise – to influence the shape that an ongoing public lands initiative may take. Speaking at an April 21 campaign event in Moab, Chaffetz said he and Rep. Rob Bishop don’t believe they should be inserting themselves into the process at this point. Instead of telling local citizens or officials, “This is how it’s going to be,” they believe the initiative should be driven primarily at the county level, he said. “We want a bottom-up process,” he said. Chaffetz said that he supports the concept of multiple-use management, but he acknowledged that others might not hold the same views. Discussions about public lands management can grow “very emotional” at times, he said. But as he envisions it, a successful initiative process could provide everyone with a clearer direction of future activities on eastern Utah’s public lands. “Part of what we’re trying to do is change the equation and the tools they have in Washington, D.C., so that we can have more certainty,” Chaffetz said. Seven counties across the region are currently participating in the initiative process, and among those, Emery and Uintah counties are furthest along, he said...more

Tribal capitalists earning the ire of environmentalists

Not all modern-day tribal revenue comes out of slot ma­chines. Apaches make decent money from their logging op­erations, especially since law­suits ostensibly intended to save the habitat of the Mexi­can spotted owl shut down their competitors off-reserva­tion. (Side note: According to the Arizona Game and Fish De­partment, about 30 percent of spotted owl habitat in Arizona has been wiped out in the last 12 years by the mega-fires sweeping through timber-­choked forests that greenies fight to the death against be­ing commercially logged. Just sayin'.) Navajos, meanwhile, oper­ate coal mines that fuel power plants that energy firms lease on Navajo lands. And a rather bold tribe in British Columbia, Canada, appears to have hit the salmon-fishing jackpot with "open-sea mariculture" that has produced a bounty of salmon in their region. And a bounty of hostility from green groups. In all these cases — by har­vesting pine trees regardless of diameter; by mining coal; and by seeding a portion of the ocean floor with iron sulfate in order to stimulate a food source for young salmon — the tribes have incurred the wrath of the environmental left, which would be happy to keep the tribes on the federal dole rather than earning filthy lucre on their own...more

The true story of why my great-uncle was buried in a tree

For as long as I can remember, my father has told the story of his uncle from back home in Illinois who, upon his death, somehow wound up having his ashes entombed in a giant sequoia tree in California. My father had never actually seen the tree and this bit of family lore always seemed strange, even far-fetched. But as part of a personal quest to learn more about my heritage, I recently discovered the uncle-in-a-tree story is absolutely true. I saw it myself earlier this month, four miles down a rugged dirt road on the western boundary of the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, where I stood at the base of the giant redwood tree that contains the ashes of a great-uncle who died a decade before I was born. Merritt Berry Pratt was born in the tiny hamlet of Paw Paw, Illinois on Oct. 3, 1878. He was my grandmother's older brother and was described in a 1959 biography by C. Raymond Clar as a "short, plump and rather handsome lad," which, I suppose, was intended as some sort of compliment. Merritt received a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago in 1904 and a master's degree in forestry from Yale a year later, after which he was immediately hired by the newly-established United States Forest Service. Merritt was assigned to the Tahoe National Forest, and at a 1906 Fourth of July picnic in Nevada City he met Laura May Schraeder, who became his wife the following year. He left the Forest Service in 1914 to teach at UC Berkeley in the new Division of Forestry of the College of Agriculture, and four years later was appointed deputy California state forester in Sacramento...more

Monday, April 28, 2014

Harry Reid: A McCarthy for Our Time

by Victor Davis Hanson

    We should ask Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) the same question once posed to Senator Joseph McCarthy by U.S. Army head-counsel Robert N. Welch: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
    Reid is back in the news for denigrating the peaceful supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, a popular critic of the Bureau of Land Management policy, as “domestic terrorists.”
    McCarthy in the 1950s became infamous for smearing his opponents with lurid allegations that he could not prove, while questioning their patriotism. Reid has brought back to the Senate that exact same McCarthy style of six decades ago — and trumped it.
    During the 2012 presidential campaign, Reid slandered candidate Mitt Romney with the unsubstantiated and later-refuted charge that Romney was a tax cheat. “The word’s out that he [Romney] hasn’t paid any taxes for ten years,” Reid said.
    Later, when asked for proof, Reid offered a pathetic rejoinder: “I have had a number of people tell me that.” One wonders how many names were on Reid’s McCarthyite “tell” list — were there, as McCarthy used to bluster, 205 names, or perhaps just 57?
    When asked again to document the slur, Reid echoed McCarthy perfectly: “The burden should be on him. He’s the one I’ve alleged has not paid any taxes.”
    When the Koch brothers donated money that was used for political ads — just as liberal political donors   George Soros and the Steyer brothers have done — Reid rushed to the Senate floor to question their patriotism: “These two brothers . . . are about as un-American as anyone that I can imagine.” The charge of being “un-American” is also vintage McCarthyite slander.
    Reid also has a bad habit of racial bigotry. He once praised fellow senator Barack Obama because he was, in Reid’s words, a “light-skinned” African American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”
    When Reid was worried that he would not get enough Hispanic voters to the polls, he condescendingly lectured the Latino community: “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, okay. Do I need to say more?”
    Reid once singled out for damnation just one Supreme Court justice — Clarence Thomas: “I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court.”
    Reid has also brought back McCarthy’s custom of vicious and sometimes profane insults.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Reid announced: “I can’t stand John McCain.” Of then-president George W. Bush, Reid said: “President Bush is a liar.” Reid claimed that fellow Mormon Mitt Romney had “sullied” his religion.
    When General David Petraeus brought proof to Congress that the surge in Iraq was beginning to work by late 2007, Reid declared, “No, I don’t believe him, because it’s not happening.”
    He elaborated on that charge by labeling Petraeus — at the time the senior ground commander of U.S. forces fighting in Iraq — a veritable liar. Reid alleged that Petraeus “has made a number of statements over the years that have not proven to be factual.”
    When an African American and Democratic appointee to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, William Magwood, opposed Reid on the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste-disposal-site controversy, Reid called him a “first-class rat,” a “treacherous, miserable liar,” a “s*** stirrer,” and “one of the most unethical, prevaricating, incompetent people I’ve ever dealt with.”
    Like a pre-reform-era politician, Reid entered public service relatively poor and will leave it as a multimillionaire.

Muddying The Waters Over Redesignating Colorado National Monument As A National Park

Discussions in western Colorado to have Colorado National Monument redesignated as a "national park" have spawned a proposal, in the form of draft Senate legislation, that has drawn concerns from the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees. Foremost, the document calls for creation of a "park advisory committee" that would advise the Interior secretary on how the renamed park would be managed. Among the members proposed to be on this committee would be a representative from the Western Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association. "The Secretary shall from time to time, but not less than annually, meet and consult with the Committee on policies and specific matters relating to the planning, administration, and development of the Park, including development of new policies and planning relating to the management of the Park," the document states. In a letter sent to U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colorado, on Friday, the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees questioned the construction of that document. The Coalition does not oppose redesignation of Colorado National Monument, writing that its nearly 1,000 members believe "that Colorado National Monument’s extraordinary resources and experiences are worthy of the additional national and international status that comes with the designation 'national park.'" However, the retirees noted that the draft document being circulated "omits essential provisions that would assure preservation and enjoyment of the park’s resources and values, while including other provisions that would undermine long-term management and protection and create more of a local park than a new unit of the National Park System."...more

Former New Mexico Police Chief Angelo Vega Allegedly On Cartel's Payroll

A former police chief in a New Mexico border town collected more than $2,000 a month from the Juarez Cartel in exchange for protection and help with smuggling drugs and guns, a former town official testified Wednesday. Blas "Woody" Gutierrez, the former Columbus village trustee, told a federal court that former Police Chief Angelo Vega also received $1,500 each time he allowed cartel members to use village vehicles, including police cruisers, for the syndicate's various operations, the Albuquerque Journal reported ( ). Vega is the key prosecution witness in the case against Burnett, the husband of Assistant U.S. Attorney Paula Burnett, who has not been charged with any crime. Vega testified Wednesday that he didn't remember exactly how much he was paid or how long he worked for the cartel. But he admitted running background checks and license plates at the request of cartel members and buying military gear at law enforcement supply stores for members of the Juarez Cartel and its enforcement arm, La Linea. Gutierrez said Vega told him that he had a friend whose wife worked in the U.S. Attorney's Office and that the friend told Vega their telephones were tapped. Gutierrez said he was not sure Vega was telling the truth until the two men met in Columbus and Vega destroyed his new phone in front of Gutierrez. "He did it to show he wasn't messing around," Gutierrez said. Gutierrez also testified that Vega claimed his friend could make the case go away for $20,000...more

Grand Canyon midair crash site made national historic monument

The site of the 1956 Grand Canyon midair collision was listed as a National Historic Monument today, according to National Park Service officials. The aircraft collided in uncongested airspace at 21,000 feet over the Grand Canyon, killing all 128 people on board the two planes. The crash caused both airliners -- a Trans World Airlines Super Constellation L-1049 and a United Airlines DC-7 -- to plummet vertically to the ground. Each had flight plans that should not have taken them over the area, an investigation eventually revealed. It was speculated that the two pilots were giving their passengers a scenic view of the national park...more

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Yesterday’s cowboys

by Julie Carter

The last of them are leaving this world with alarming regularity --that generation of cowboys that went before me. Things were very different then --the decades of the 40s, 50s and 60s.

Cowboys in those days weren’t always born cowboys. Cowboys that fathered generations of today’s cowboys were often “made” not born. The freedom and excitement of life on the range was very alluring to many young men whose parents intended for them to be doctors and lawyers or even just hoped they’d get any kind of a job that would support them.

My Dad and uncles were some of those babies of the 1930s that grew up to be fine cowboys and respected cattlemen.  Their on-job-training started very young and was a crash course in the finer etiquettes of a ranch cowboy.

My Dad died before his stories got set on paper so what I have of him are memories and what he taught me. I put the burden of recording those days on paper on one of his younger brothers.

My uncle wrote: “In 1947, at 13, I got my first job at trying to be a cowboy working for the KC Ranch in Colorado.  They had three ranches. One at Gardner, Colo., one in the Davis Mountains west of Pecos, Texas and one in an isolated area about 70 southwest of Carlsbad, New Mexico, 70 miles northeast of Vanhorn, Texas and 70 miles northwest of Pecos.”

“The summer I was 14 I went to the Davis Mountain Ranch to work. We spent those months doctoring cattle for screwworms. The summer rains started and it would rain between a half and an inch-and-a-half every afternoon. Excellent weather for screw worms.”

“I went back to the KC north ranch in West Texas the summer I was 15.  We’d move or work cattle from daylight until about ten, and then spend the afternoons shoeing horses or doing whatever else needed to be done.”

“The summer I was 17 and had just graduated from high school,  I was going to win my fame and fortune rodeoing but I needed a nest egg to get started.  So back to the KC ranch in West Texas I went. I let it be known to the other hands that I was going to have a career at riding bucking horses.”

“I told them I was only staying long enough to get enough money to hit the road.  When the cow boss cut my string of saddle horses,  he cut them with my ‘future career’ in mind.  Every one of them would buck quite a bit every time you would ride them.”

“I had one horse named Half Dollar. He had bucked off about everyone who had ever had him in their string.  We had a herd of cattle thrown together and all of a sudden he started to buck and bucked for a good little bit. I was lucky and rode him. Everyone gathered around me and was talking about what a great bronc ride that I had put on.  About that time Half Dollar shook real hard and I fell off — right flat on my back.”

“When I left to pursue my rodeo career, everyone wished me luck and told me to not let any horses shake with me. I didn’t think I’d ever live that down.”

Along with the usual job skills, every cowboy inevitably learns a little humility.

Julie can be reached for comment at

Riparian versus Prior Appropriation Water Doctrine

Institutionalized Crown oppression
Riparian versus Prior Appropriation Water Doctrine
Grazing fees and Tom Foolery management of the Commons
By Stephen L. Wilmeth
            The vision of camouflaged shooters pointing loaded weapons and releasing attack dogs on Nevada ranchers should be burned into the souls of Westerners.
I am saddened by the actions of my government.
In a time we are simply trying to exist, we are reminded there is no safe harbor in the unifying action by a national leader. We cannot expect this president or his cadres of avant-gardesmen to look us in the eye and convince us things are going to get better. We must assume the only path we have lies within our unity and the belief in the sovereignty of our states.
My disgust extends to the sorry state of investigative reporting and the inability to reveal facts. Listening to all news outlets has been underwhelming, and the realization Washington has little grasp of the matters of rural destruction in the West is just an added burden of fact.
We are outside looking in.
Primer on ownership
New Mexican Dick Manning revealed to the modern West the ownership paradigm that protects our personal property rights under the management of the federal landlord. That owner owns 61% of all the lands west of the 100th Meridian and controls as much as 17% more. The federal agencies do not exist to promote the robust health of the 11 western states. On the contrary, the natural resource based West has prevailed in spite of the federal government.
A review of ownership paradigms is necessary. One is based on land, and the other is based on water.
The lands east of the 100th Meridian were settled under the theme of land ownership. In that Riparian Doctrine, the title holder of land had the exclusive rights of utilization of the water associated with the land. As such, land was the driving resource value and the prevailing principle of ownership. That system, derived in Anglo Saxon Europe and understood by congress, was associated with European rainfall accumulations.
The original ownership of lands west of the 100th Meridian was impacted by western arid land conditions. There was never an abundance of water and water became the driving resource value. Under that system, the title holder of water had the right to acquire the use of as much land as was necessary to put that water to beneficial use. That ownership system became known as Prior Appropriation Water Doctrine. That approach evolved under the Spanish, and, subsequently, the Mexican governments who controlled great swaths of the arid West prior to the Mexican-American War.
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed in 1848, ended that war and set the terms and conditions that conveyed the territory that now makes up the states of California, Nevada, Utah, most of New Mexico and Arizona, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado. It was from that treaty and the agreement by the United States to transition the conquered populous into the union that doctrine was recognized. The United States wisely chose not to disturb the system of property law which predated the settlement of the union and chose instead to adopt the Prior Appropriations Water Doctrine as law in 1866.
It was Manning who became the practical expert of the Treaty. His study revealed the basic ownership tenets, set forth in the document, that are now used to defend Westerners in federal attempts to evict them from heritage lands. It was also from that genesis Wayne Hage was able to prevail in his battle to defend at least part of his “rights and claims” associated with his ownership of water resources.
Years before his death and any litigation results, Hage clarified his understanding of public lands as it relates to such “rights and claims” when he said, “The term “public lands” has been erroneously applied to these lands.”
“I say erroneously because the United States Supreme Court held in Bardon v. Northern Pacific Railroad Company that “lands to which rights and claims of another attach do not fall within the classification of public lands,” he continued. “Rights and claims of ranchers to water rights and grazing easements (range rights) cover virtually all these lands (thus) according to the U.S. Supreme Court, the ranchers’ grazing allotments cannot be public lands.”
Manning and Hage proved the West has rights, but, Hage, in his marathon legal battle, proved water is the prevailing right in the absence of land title.
The new Crown
In 1837, the western states were on the verge of revolt because the United States had neglected a most basic promise of the American experiment. The Founders knew it was paramount to vest the citizenry in private property in order to solidify the underlying principles of the rebellion. No longer experienced in King George tyranny, though, new generation leadership in Washington chose not to reduce national debt and accelerate the self reliance of the new states. It chose to become a grand land baron.
The leadership of Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, Louisiana, and Florida prevailed, however, and the federal government disposed of public land and relinquished title. Those states flourished similarly to the original colonies.
Texas demanded land ownership as a condition of its entry into the union. California, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and others were promised the same thing. In fact, they have similar Enabling Act language as Ohio which was prepared to leave the union unless the United States addressed the disposal promise.
Yet Congress, even more generations removed from King George tyranny, held its multilayered chin high and denied the disposal of public lands in the other states. It assumed the very role that ultimately cost the King his colonies.
The consequences are huge. The West is becoming an ever expanding welfare state. Corrupting transfers of wealth must be maintained to create any semblance of equal footing. When states like New Mexico rely on federal transfers for nearly 40% of its budget, the states east of the 100th Meridian ought to be furious.
The process that delivered ‘grazing fees’
Ranchers are far too removed from the origination of the subject of grazing fees to debate the subject with authority. Grazing fees grew out of the dynamic directly relating to the inability to create permanent wealth in the federally land dominated West. Federal lands ranchers were always constrained by reliance on lands that did not belong to them. The problem was both philosophical and real. In order to capitalize investments on lands that did not provide solid collateral, the idea of contributing to a fund for critical conservation projects was born. That was what was promised, but what resulted was at best a modified outcome.
In 1934, the Taylor Grazing Act (TGA) was crafted with the idea that chaos on federally dominated western ranges could be reduced if there was a method to consolidate generalship. The destructive management of the commons was about ready to prompt the eruption of a modern range war. In trade for that objective, ranchers conceded the guidance of their checkerboard ranches (federal, state, and privately owned lands) to the federal government. The vehicle for the concept was the grazing permit.
In return, the government was allowed to become the active partner in range improvements. If the rancher declined to sign the grazing permit, he could not participate in the fund, but, just as importantly, the federal government would not gain authority to manage his private property rights which include water rights.
After being cast into the typical congressional horse trading process, those TGA permits became mandatory fees and assured purposes for stabilizing the ranching community became shared uses. The secretary could apply the money to conservation projects as promised, or could simply deposit the funds into the Treasury which was then supposed to distribute only 12.5% of the collections to the state. The state legislature then decided how to spend the majority of the receipts. Regulatory drift further altered the concept and reduced the effectiveness and the original intent of the conservation funding.
In its role as the New Crown, the federal government created this debacle.
If its stewardship had remained true in spirit and intent in the disposal of public lands for the good of the union upon new state entry, the two doctrines would have been overlaid, merged, and each would have enforced the sanctity of the other. Now, western states must resort to defensive tactics to fend off the heritage cleansing promulgated by the federal land agencies and the environmental front.
It is a constitutional nightmare.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “The failure in the Hage case to prove grazing rights do exist amplifies two basic constitutional issues. The first is the dismissal of citizenry sovereignty when the federal government assumes the role of the New Crown. The second is the perpetuation of institutionalized oppression. That oppression in the post war era was defined as share cropping. The term in the modern era is federal lands ranching."